Speed Reads

day two

Did Ketanji Brown Jackson call George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld 'war criminals'?

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) ended his questioning of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Tuesday by asking Jackson why she accused former President George W. Bush and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld of being "war criminals."

"I don't know you well, but I've been impressed by our interaction, and you've been gracious and charming," Cornyn said. "Why in the world would you call Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and George W. Bush war criminals in a legal filing? It seems so out of character for you."

Jackson appeared confused by the question. Cornyn clarified, "I'm talking about when you were representing a member of the Taliban ... and you referred to the secretary of defense and the sitting president of the United States as 'war criminals.'"

"Well, senator," Jackson responded, "I don't remember that particular reference, and I was representing my client and making arguments. I'd have to take a look at what you meant. I did not intend to disparage the president or the secretary of defense."

Cornyn was likely referring to a habeas corpus petition Jackson filed on behalf of Guantánamo Bay detainee Khiali-Gul while working as a federal public defender in 2005. Jackson's filing did not include the phrase "war criminals," but it did name Bush and Rumsfeld as respondents and accused them of violating the Geneva Conventions.

"Respondents ... have denied and continue to deny petitioner Khiali-Gul the process accorded to persons seized and detained by the United States military in times of armed conflict as established by specific provisions of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions," Jackson's petition reads. "Violations of the Geneva Conventions are direct treaty violations and are also violations of customary international law. ... Respondents are liable for this conduct described above, insofar as they set the conditions, directly and/or indirectly facilitated, ordered, acquiesced, confirmed, ratified, and/or conspired to violate the Geneva Conventions."